As an outbreak of influenza becomes more widespread across North Texas, many school districts are sending letters home with students letting families know what they can do to curb the spread of the virus.
Influenza season has begun earlier than usual this winter in Dallas County. As expected with high levels of influenza currently circulating in our community, cases of influenza-like illnesses may be increasingly reported in students and staff.
As in past influenza seasons, the health and safety of all children are a priority for each school community. Since flu can spread easily from person to person, we need your help to prevent cases of flu in students and staff. It is important for all staff, students, and families to take the following precautions at this time:
- Monitor the health of your child and all other household members closely by checking for fever and other flu symptoms every morning. Symptoms of flu usually include fever with cough or sore throat, and sometimes runny nose, body aches, headache, vomiting or diarrhea.
- Staff and children with symptoms of the flu should stay at home. Keeping sick students at home is the best way to keep flu from spreading to other students and staff. As much as possible, sick children should be cared for by a single designated caregiver, kept in a separate room in the house and have limited contact with other household members who are not sick. Children with symptoms of flu should not return to school until they no longer have fever for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications. A doctor’s note is NOT required in order for your child to return to school. Please notify the school if your child is absent by 10 am on the day of absence.
- Testing for flu and treatment with antiviral medications is not needed for most children over 2 years of age without underlying medical conditions who have mild flu illness. Ill children should be encouraged to drink plenty of clear fluids to keep from becoming dehydrated. Do not give any medicines containing aspirin to your child. Contact a healthcare provider and seek medical care immediately if your child is having difficulty breathing or chest pain, has altered mental status or confusion, is vomiting and unable to keep liquids down, or is getting worse.
- Recognize whether your child or any household member is at high risk for severe illness from flu. People at higher risk for flu complications include children under the age of 2 years, pregnant women, people of any age who have chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, cancer or heart disease), and people age 65 years and older. If any high risk person or their household members become sick with flu-like symptoms, please contact your doctor as soon as possible to ask for advice about antiviral medications.
- Remind all household members to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer regularly. Continue to teach children to cover their cough with their elbow or sleeve, and to avoid touching their face.
- Have all eligible household members vaccinated for influenza as soon as possible.
Schools are currently closely following their percentages of student absenteeism. Influenza epidemics evolve in unpredictable ways. Please be aware that if the situation becomes more severe, the school will notify you if there are any additional steps that the school will be taking to prevent the spread of flu.
More information on how to take care of a sick child is available at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/homecare/. For more information about flu, call 1-800-CDC-INFO or visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/. Dallas County influenza resources and updates are available at: www.dallascounty.org.
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Our campuses work to stay vigilant this time of year and work closely with area health departments.
If a child becomes ill while at school, faculty and staff do their best to isolate him or her and contact parents promptly to pick up the child. Frisco ISD custodial staff disinfects our schools daily, following strict infection control guidelines. During flu season, a special team is also utilized by the custodial department, using additional disinfecting measures to further prevent the spread of disease.
Students and staff are encouraged to wash their hands often, and cough into their sleeve. Hand sanitizer is also available in every classroom and common areas. We also strictly enforce a rule regarding 24 hours without fever of 100 degrees or higher (without fever-reducing medication) before a sick child can return to school.
This rule, and similar information is communicated to parents and posted on our website: When to Keep Your Child Home from School.
Each Frisco ISD campus did host a flu shot clinic this fall, with immunizations offered to interested students and families.
Thankfully thus far, student attendance does not seem to be affected by illness in the community. Here are the percentages of FISD attendance for the first two days after break last year and this year:
1st day – 96.57%
2nd day – 96.69%
1st day - 96.86%
2nd day – 97.07%
We also have this story on our website regarding the importance of handwashing.
Managing the Flu Season Together
Flu season is typically from October – March. Preparation is the key. Management is a team effort between parents, students, health care professionals, Plano ISD and Collin County Health Department. Each plays a vital role in managing the flu season responsibly.
Plano ISD schools help by:
- Teaching and encouraging proper hand washing technique.
- Teaching effective coughing and sneeze technique such as cough in your sleeve.
- Posting signs around the campus as a visual reminder.
- Offering free flu vaccine to all staff.
- Encouraging all staff to remain home when ill.
Parents help by:
- Having their families vaccinated against the flu.
- Encouraging proper hand, sneeze and cough techniques be used at home.
- Consulting their health care providers when flu-like illness symptoms begin. Flu like symptoms include: fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, fatigue and nasal congestion.
- Keeping their children home when ill.
Students help by:
- Washing their hands for twenty seconds with soap and water before and after eating, after sneezing or coughing into their hands, after using the restroom, after playing outdoors, and any other time their hands are dirty.
- Using Kleenex to sneeze and coughing into their sleeves.
- Not sharing food and drink.
- Encouraging others to do the same.
Collin County Health Department can help when:
- Increased incidences of diagnosed flu or absences related to flu like illness are noted in a particular school.
- Helping plan and making suggestions for managing increased incidences in a particular area.
More information can be found on the following government sites:
In addition to providing the same documents from Dallas County Health and Human Services as the DISD and GPISD, Richardson said the following:
The flu, caused by the influenza virus, infects the lungs, nose, and throat. Typical flu symptoms include fever, cough and sore throat that come on suddenly. Most cases are relatively mild to moderate and do not need emergency treatment. Appropriate fluid intake, fever-reducing medication, rest and careful monitoring are recommended. People with underlying health conditions who think they have the flu should contact their health care provider.
If your child becomes ill with flu-like symptoms (fever of 100°F (38°C) or higher, plus cough and/or sore throat) , they should not come to school until the symptoms have gone, and they have been fever-free for 24 hours without the aid of fever-reducing medications such as Tylenol. Students who come to school with flu-like symptoms will be sent home. It is also important to call the school if your child misses school due to flu-like symptoms. This allows RISD to track illness data as directed by our county health department. Also, as with any absence, when your child is well and returns to school, please send a note with them to school.
Please take a moment to review the attached documents regarding hygiene, influenza prevention and care from RISD Health Services and other health authorities.